In 2018, Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) graduate Monishi Sanyal founded IITStartsups. Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, the non-profit accelerator aims to provide aspiring companies with workshop access, and qualified IIT alumni businesses with mentoring, corporate introductions, and incubation space.
Even amidst coronavirus pandemic related disruption, IITStartups is providing fledgling companies with the resources they will need to thrive.
How IITStartups Came Into Existence
In an interview with The Burn-In, Sanyal explained he established the non-profit to change the perception of IIT alumni. Although the university has produced more unicorn founders than the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Silicon Valley viewed its former students as skilled engineers, not future entrepreneurs.
To address the problem, IITians (alumni) from the university’s various campuses held a gathering that attracted the attention of “60 Minutes.” The news magazine produced a feature on what it described as “the best university you’ve never heard of” and garnered the institution’s graduates much-deserved investor attention. However, in 2017, the founder received concerning investor feedback regarding the alumni he had previously set up with potential financial backers.
“On the technology side, IITians are second to nobody,” said Sanyal. “But on the business side, they’ve got weaknesses.”
In response, the executive founded IITStartups in 2018 to provide technologically accomplished graduates with crucial enterprise training. Wanting to give back after receiving a state-subsidized education, Sanyal and a host of other successful IITians committed to volunteer their time to help the next generation reach their goals.
How IITStartups Helps Entrepreneurs
At the incubator’s 2018 inaugural event, Sanyal was “shocked” to be greeted by more than 200 burgeoning startups. The organization held a series of workshops to help would-be entrepreneurs discover if they could make it in the business world. Indeed, as the founder noted, “not everybody is cut out for entrepreneurship, no matter how brilliant [they] may be.”
After a startup qualifies in the workshop phase, the group assigns them a mentor who provides them with one-on-one counseling. At present, the organization has 50 mentors in its pipeline, including the likes of serial entrepreneur Bidyut Parruck, former Cisco executive and unicorn co-founder Amit Gupta, and Hewlett Packer Enterprise M&A GTM Lead Manoj Goel.
Lastly, the organization puts its active Cohorts into incubators that provide them with critical infrastructural resources.
Finding New Solutions Amid Adverse Conditions
Although the coronavirus pandemic has caused disruption on a global scale, IITStartups has managed to continue its mission during the crisis. In fact, Parruck, co-chair of the fifth Cohort, said, “If anything, COVID has made us more productive.” The veteran entrepreneur explained his group’s weekly meetings became increasingly focused after moving to a remote platform.
Besides, Parruck noted an interesting trend among the startups he is mentoring. In the wake of the illness’s devastating impact, his firms are thinking about new ways to make the world safer through automation. For instance, one company in his Cohort makes hospital robots that can transport objects without spreading infection. He also mentioned another business is developing cleaning technology via ultraviolet light for purposes of sterilization.
Parruck said startups should not view current upheaval as a reason not to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. “The best startups are actually created in the downturns.” Moreover, he pointed out Big Tech giants like Google and Facebook became stronger after facing challenges like the dot-com bubble bursting and the Great Recession.
Similarly, Sanyal offered advice for enterprises that are trying to get off the ground in the post-coronavirus world. The IITStartups Chief Evangelist explained the emerging firms his organization works with are looking at how they can pair their products with remote productivity tools. As such, he said companies should factor in the “new normal” of work-from-home when developing their offerings.
Sanyal also advised startups to recognize the temporary nature of the current environment and stressed emerging companies should “keep moving forward.”
Currently, the accelerator’s roadmap includes expanding from its Silicon Valley hub into other technology hubs in India and the U.S. Amidst the current crisis, it is comforting to know IITStartups is helping today’s fledging companies become tomorrow’s world-changing businesses.